3D Printing: The Manufactory of Knowledge

People have become accustomed to creating and transmitting text, images, sound and video with technology once reserved to professionals and media production companies. But for the most part, production and delivery of three-dimensional objects remains the preserve of manufacturing plants and post offices.1 However, the factory is now coming within reach of the home–full circle from the cottage industries that gave rise to them in the first instance.2 Moreover, libraries and museums are beginning to embrace 3D technologies for archiving and collection development.3 And the widespread ability to create three-dimensional objects via technology is transforming information collection, storage and communication across a spectrum of fields.4

The revolution in movable type from Gutenberg’s printing press to the desktop printer has found new footing in 3D printing.5 Indeed, prototyping technology will open the door to the preservation of things in a variety of contexts: (1) crime scene evidence;6 (2) digital estates;7 (3) art works; (4) biologics; and (5) historical artifacts. Thus, 3-D scanning and holographic imaging will serve as new modes for collecting, storing and transmitting information.8

Moreover, forensics will benefit from the addition of a third dimension to investigation and evidence building. Without a doubt, “[c]opies of physical objects could be scanned and archived for post-conviction review, forestalling the danger that the real items might become unrecoverable. The evidence room of the future might be stored on a hard drive and re-produced as needed.”9 To be sure, the Internet of Things and 3D printing will forge a new stream of durable digital archiving that might be termed Web 4D–the fourth dimension being time. Thus, the preservation and transmission of information in three dimensions will inform and educate future generations, bringing archeology into the home through the desktop printer.10

The practice of law and the administration of justice will also have to contend with an assortment of issues generated by this added dimension in information management. And the peer to peer sharing of things and biologics will generate new challenges to the application of intellectual property, product liability and privacy rights. Indeed, courts and legislatures will be facing fundamental questions raised by this extraordinary technology: What is original?11 What is property? What is privacy? What is life?12 And what is evidence?13

3D printing will likely converge and split along innovative lines such as the Internet of Everything,14 organic fabricating (or bioprinting),15 and the boundless inventions of the coming Diamond Age.16 Still, the consequences of this new dimension of information and communication have yet to be fully legislated.

This article collects recent legal scholarship, reports and news concentrating on the ever broadening societal applications and legal implications of 3D printing.


3-D Printing and Product Liability: Identifying the Obstacles, 162 U. Pa. L. Rev. Online 35 (2013)
“Though just in its infancy, 3-D printing seems poised to transform the goods we buy, the products we use, and the world we inhabit. A question frequently raised about 3-D printing, though, is how product liability law will apply to 3-D-printed goods. Tackling that important and timely question, this Essay applies contemporary product liability law to defective products from home 3-D printers. The analysis reveals that if home 3-D printing really does take off, PL litigation as we know it may well, in large measure, dry up. And if it doesn’t, the technology threatens to unsettle the theoretical justification for product liability law’s development.”

3D Printers, Obsolete Firearm Supply Controls, and the Right to Build Self-Defense Weapons Under Heller, 42 Golden Gate U.L. Rev. 447 (2012)
“Part I introduces 3D printers and explains which gun components they can already produce. Part II explains how firearms are presumptively distributed under federal regulations, describes the structure of the firearm industry, and discusses theories on how consumers and criminals actually obtain guns. Part III explains how 3D printers may change the way firearms are acquired, undermining or even rendering obsolete the current regulatory system. Part IV, after outlining the constitutional right to bear arms, interprets Heller as supporting an individual right for law-abiding citizens to make their own self-defense weapons, and explains why this interest is legitimate. Part IV also analyzes the extent to which Heller may extend Second Amendment protection to weapons made by additive manufacturing. The Conclusion summarizes and stresses the importance of 3D printers remaining unrestricted, irrespective of their influence on self-defense.”

Anonymity, Faceprints, and the Constitution, 21 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 409 (Winter 2014)
“Part I defines anonymity and explains that respect for the capacity to remain physically and psychologically unknown to the government traces back to the Founding. With the advent and expansion of new technologies such as FRT [facial recognition technology], the ability to remain anonymous has eroded, leading to a litany of possible harms. Part II reviews the existing Fourth and First Amendment doctrine that is available to stave off ubiquitous government surveillance and identifies anonymity as a constitutional value that warrants more explicit doctrinal protection. Although the Fourth Amendment has been construed to excise surveillance of public and third-party information from its scope, the Court’s recent jurisprudence indicates a growing recognition that constitutional doctrine is out of step with modern surveillance technologies. The Supreme Court has expressly recognized a First Amendment right to anonymous speech, which should be taken into account in assessing the constitutionality of government surveillance systems under the Fourth Amendment. This Part accordingly draws a distinction between cases that arose in the pre-digital age, in which content was often collected through physical trespass or eavesdropping, and those arising in the digital age, in which correlations among disparate points of “big data” are used to make predictions. Part III argues that Fourth and First Amendment doctrine should be reconciled to address the manipulation–versus acquisition–of FRT data to derive new information about individuals which is exceedingly intimate and otherwise out of the government’s reach. This Part suggests that this qualitative shift in information gathering is constitutionally significant under existing doctrine. Part III also offers guidelines gleaned from the intersection of First and Fourth Amendment jurisprudence for consideration by lower courts and legislators as they address the threat of limitless surveillance which big data and new technologies present.”

Asserting Patents to Combat Infringement via 3D Printing: It’s No “Use”, 23 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 771 (2013)
“Three-dimensional (“3D”) printing technology, which enables physical objects to be “printed” as easily as words can be printed on a page, is rapidly moving from industrial settings into consumers’ homes. The advent of consumer-grade 3D printers fundamentally alters the traditional allocation of manufacturing infrastructure and sales activity. No longer do manufacturers need to make, sell, and ship physical products in their physical states. Rather, consumers may download digital representations of products over the Internet for printing in the comfort their own homes. For products sold in this fashion that are patented, this presents difficult hurdles to enforcement against infringers. Under existing law, the distributors of digital representations of products are not “making,” “selling,” or “using” the patented products or any “component” thereof. Absent proof of active inducement of infringement – i.e., at least willful blindness on the part of the distributors that their actions cause patent infringement – the distributors are not liable for the resulting infringement. While copyright law can help bridge the gap to the degree the products at issue are driven more by aesthetics than by functionality, a legislative solution appears necessary to give patentees recourse against such unauthorized distribution of their patented inventions.”

Challenges of 3D Printing to the Repair-Reconstruction Doctrine in Patent Law, 20 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 1147 (2013)

“Part I of this Comment begins by discussing the rapidly advancing 3D printer technology, noting some of the most remarkable creations born from 3D printing and describing its current availability to consumers. Part I then explains basic patent law principles and how 3D printing has disruptive potential in patent law. Part II describes the complex legal standard that attempts to distinguish between permissible repair and infringing reconstruction, and how that standard could produce undesirable outcomes in light of 3D printing and wide availability of low-cost replacement parts. Finally, Part III of this Comment proposes three recommendations for clearer, more reliable standards to prevent arbitrary litigation, provide consumers with certainty, and achieve judicial consistency. The Comment concludes by urging courts to adopt one of the redefined, recommended standards.”

Downloading Infringement: Patent Law as a Roadblock to the 3D Printing Revolution, 26 Harv. J. Law & Tec 353 (2012)

“This Note discusses the modes of infringement made possible by 3D printing technology, identifies the actors most likely to face a risk of litigation, and proposes modifications to the current patent law regime, with an eye toward both preserving the public goods generated by the DIY community and providing patentees with a method for good faith extrajudicial enforcement of their rights. Part II of this Note briefly summarizes the current state of the technology. Part III discusses how infringement may arise and who may be liable. Part IV proposes patent law modifications analogous to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (“DMCA”) safe harbor and notice-and-takedown provisions for copyright infringing material. Part V proposes the creation of a public-private partnership to help ensure that DIYers’ inventions remain in the public domain, if they so desire. Part VI concludes.”

Of PhDs, Pirates, and the Public: Three-Dimensional Printing Technology and the Arts, SSRN (2014)
“The confluence of three-dimensional printing, three-dimensional scanning, and the internet will explode the dividing line between the physical and the digital worlds and will bring millions of lay people into intimate contact with the full spectrum of intellectual property laws. One of the areas most affected by 3D printers will be three-dimensional art. This Article analyzes several ways in which 3D printing technology will affect the creation, delivery, and consumption of art. Not only does 3D printing offer great promise for creative works, but it also presents a problem of piracy that may accompany the digitization three-dimensional works. As 3D printing technology’s relationship to intellectual property law is largely unexplored, this Article explores foundational issues regarding how copyright law applies to 3D printing technology, laying the groundwork upon which further analysis of 3D printing’s effects on copyright law may be built.”

Patents, Meet Napster: 3D Printing and the Digitization of Things, SSRN (2013)
“Digitization has reached things. This shift promises to alter the business and legal landscape for a range of industries. Digitization has already disrupted copyright-based industries and laws. As cost barriers dropped, individuals engaged with copyrighted work as never before. The business-to-business models of industrial copyright faltered and in some cases failed. Industries had to reorganize, and claimed foundations for copyright had to be re-examined. This Article examines a prime example the next phase of digitization: 3D printing and it implications on intellectual property law and practice.3D printing is a general-purpose technology that will do for physical objects what MP3 files did for music. The core patent bargain — sharing the plans on how to make something in exchange for exclusivity — may be meaningless in a world of digitized things. While these devices will unleash the creativity of producers and reduce costs for consumers, they will also make it far easier to infringe patents, copyrights, and trade dress. This will force firms to rethink their business practices and courts to reexamine not only patent doctrine but also long established doctrine in areas ranging from copyright merger to trademark post-sale confusion. Moreover, Congress will need to consider establishing some sort of infringement exemption for 3D printing in the home and expanding the notice-and takedown provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to websites that host software enabling the 3D printing of patented items and distinctive trade dress. While a 3D printer is not yet a common household item, the time to start thinking about that future is now.”

Personal Factory or Catalyst for Piracy? The Hype, Hysteria, And Hard Realities of Consumer 3-D Printing, 31 Cardozo Arts & Ent LJ 473 (2013)
“Part I of this Note focuses on the background and development of consumer 3-D printing technology and the hobbyist community that sustains it, as well as examining the first three legal controversies involving 3-D printing and intellectual property. Part II of this Note surveys the existing case law and explores statutory language that may be relevant to consumer 3-D printing. Part III of this Note will analyze how current law may specifically apply to 3-D printing, focusing on the applicability of the policy goals that it reflects and the feasibility of its application in this context. Finally, Part IV argues that, due to basic physical and technological limitations, 3-D printing is far less likely to threaten intellectual property rights than peer-to-peer networks and file sharing services in the foreseeable future. It also observes that 3-D printing technologies have many potentially valuable noninfringing uses that should qualify for protection under the rule established in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. This Note concludes by suggesting minor targeted reforms and cautioning that precipitous regulation could stifle innovation and development.”

Print, Lock, and Load: 3-D Printers, Creation of Guns, and the Potential Threat to Fourth Amendment Rights, 13 U. Ill. J.L. Tech. & Pol’y 337 (2013)
“This Note will provide an in-depth analysis of the interplay between 3-D printers, the production of firearms, and the Fourth Amendment. Part II provides background on the technology of 3-D printing, the creation of 3-D printed guns, the regulations in place with respect to firearms, and what constitutional rights are at stake. Part III examines the impact Second Amendment rights with regards to guns produced from 3-D printers will have on Fourth Amendment rights. Part IV offers a recommendation for how courts and law enforcement agencies can reconcile the tension that exists between Second and Fourth Amendment rights amidst the rising prominence of 3-D printing technology.”

Printing the Impossible Triangle: The Copyright Implications of Three-Dimensional Printing, 5 J. Bus. Entrepreneurship & L. 161 (2011)
“Three-dimensional printing (3D printing), which allows users to digitize and replicate objects, is emerging as the next potentially disruptive technology. It is now possible to “print” intricate objects from furniture to food to human organs. Because 3D printing relies on computer-based blueprints in order to create physical objects, digital copyright infringement can now impact the physical world. The first example occurred in February 2011, when the world’s first Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice for a 3D printed object was sent. This article describes how 3D printing works in relation to copyright law, first by discussing this DMCA takedown request, and then discussing the validity of the copyright complaint. This article then discusses future copyright concerns for the open source 3D printing community in light of how the 3D printing community handled its first copyright complaint.”

Three-Dimensional Printing and Open Source Hardware, 2 N.Y.U. J. of Intell. Prop. & Ent. Law 257 (2013)

“[T]his Article describes how the technology of three-dimensional printing can also be employed to surmount the legal challenges in creating an effective open source hardware license. Section I of the Article describes the shortcomings of current open source hardware licenses, especially how such licenses fail to implement regimes to ensure that proper attribution for inventors is provided and that documentation for open source hardware designs is shared with the community. Section II provides some technological and historical background regarding three-dimensional printing, and analyzes the application of copyright law to this technology. Section III details a licensing regime that, applied to three-dimensional printing, can implement an effective and enforceable open hardware license. This section also discusses some of the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed regime. The Appendix includes a first draft of the Three-Dimensional Printing Open License, which implements the proposed open hardware licensing regime.”


3D Imaging for Bite Mark Analysis – Presentation of a New Approach, J. of Forensic Odonto-stomatology [2013, 31 Suppl 1:119]
“In recent years the forensic analysis of human bite marks has been subject to increased scrutiny and a number of authors have presented case examples where incorrect bite mark evidence at least in part has contributed to wrong convictions. Consequently a paradigm shift in the analysis of bite marks towards a much more cautious and scientifically based approach to the use of bite mark analysis methods has been seen. The need for methods reducing errors when capturing the complex details of curved and often distorted lesions in soft tissues has been emphasized. Preliminary reports on the use of objective, digital and multiple-dimensional methodological approaches are emerging. Method / Results: Experimental bite marks were scanned with a Creaform GoScan (Creaform, Quebec, Canada) after placing 4 adhesive reference labels adjacent to the bite marks. Scans were taken with and without the ABFO no. 2 scale. The full dentitions of the “suspects” were scanned with a Trios intraoral scanner (3Shape, Copenhagen, Denmark) and digital 3D casts of the dentitions were generated with 3Shape Ortho System software. Datasets of the 3D bite mark scans and the digital casts were combined by a newly developed customized software (Kvejborg, Denmark) allowing digitalized measurements of linear and angular features in the casts and soft tissue scans as well as 3D visualizations of physical fits between casts or segmented casts and 3D bite mark scans in a 1 : 1 scale. The method allows 3D printing of the anatomical site including the bite mark which in certain cases may be useful for the presentation of a crime case. The application of the multidimensional digital approach is exemplified by the presentation of a recent homicide case involving bite marks. Conclusions: By applying multidimensional digital applications objective data on minute details, in bite marks and in the suspects dentition, can be obtained and compared more objectively than was possible with the formerly used methods which converted multidimensional complex features of bite marks as well as dentition details into 2D overlays for comparative analysis.”

3D Printing: Basic Concepts Mathematics and Technologies, Int’l J. of Systems Biology and Biomedical Technologies, vol. 2, issue 2, pp. 58-71 (2013)
“3D printing is about being able to print any object layer by layer. But if one questions this proposition, can one find any three-dimensional objects that can’t be printed layer by layer? To banish any disbeliefs the authors walked together through the mathematics that prove 3D printing is feasible for any real life object. 3D printers create three-dimensional objects by building them up layer by layer. The current generation of 3D printers typically requires input from a CAD program in the form of an STL file, which defines a shape by a list of triangle vertices. The vast majority of 3D printers use two techniques, FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) and PBP (Powder Binder Printing). One advanced form of 3D printing that has been an area of increasing scientific interest the recent years is bioprinting. Cell printers utilizing techniques similar to FDM were developed for bioprinting. These printers give us the ability to place cells in positions that mimic their respective positions in organs. Finally, through a series of case studies the authors show that 3D printers have made a massive breakthrough in medicine lately.”

Evaluation of 3D Printing and Its Potential Impact on Biotechnology and the Chemical Sciences, Anal. Chem., Jan. 16, 2014
“Nearing 30 years since its introduction, 3D printing technology is set to revolutionize research and teaching laboratories. This feature encompasses the history of 3D printing, reviews various printing methods, and presents current applications. The authors offer an appraisal of the future direction and impact this technology will have on laboratory settings as 3D printers become more accessible.”

Forensic Uses of 3D Printing, Forensic Mag., June 4, 2013
“Although there are few cases where 3D printing has been adopted for investigative or court purposes, the ability to physically recreate a piece of evidence is an interesting approach. The range of objects can be as small as a fingerprint or can be an entire crime scene that is scaled down to just a few feet. As investigators and scientists start to see the benefit of replicating evidence, they will need to begin looking at digitizing technologies such as close range laser scanners, structured light scanners, and photogrammetry. Once these technologies have been adopted and more evidence is captured in 3D, there will very likely be many more cases where 3D printing will be applied.”

Getting in Touch–3D Printing in Forensic Imaging, Forensic Sci. Int’l 2011 Sep 10; 211(1-3)
“With the increasing use of medical imaging in forensics, as well as the technological advances in rapid prototyping, we suggest combining these techniques to generate displays of forensic findings. We used computed tomography (CT), CT angiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and surface scanning with photogrammetry in conjunction with segmentation techniques to generate 3D polygon meshes. Based on these data sets, a 3D printer created colored models of the anatomical structures. Using this technique, we could create models of bone fractures, vessels, cardiac infarctions, ruptured organs as well as bitemark wounds. The final models are anatomically accurate, fully colored representations of bones, vessels and soft tissue, and they demonstrate radiologically visible pathologies. The models are more easily understood by laypersons than volume rendering or 2D reconstructions. Therefore, they are suitable for presentations in courtrooms and for educational purposes.”

Pushing Frontiers With the First Lady of Emerging Technologies – How Is “Internet of the 3D Printed Products” Going to Affect Our Lives?, IETE Tech. Rev. 2012; 29:360-4
“In this, The First Lady of Emerging Technologies coins a new term – “Internet of 3D Printed Products”. She is showing us a third kind emerging future she is coining as: “Internet of 3D Printed Products”. Internet has given rise to two major changes in our lives. The real life collaboration enabled by Internet of People has been brought to us with various social networking technologies. The real life monitoring and managing enabled by Internet of people has been brought to us by various Machine to Machine (M2M) technologies. Now, we are looking at a third kind emerging future I [Satwant Kaur] am coining as: “Internet of 3D Printed Products”. In “Internet of 3D Printed Products,” we are looking at not only intangible services, but tangible goods will be delivered as well to our computers over the Internet. We will be able to receive or create goods in digital form, and we will be able to three-dimensional (3D) print them and turn them into physical objects. These printed objects are changing our life in major areas such as in healthcare. These changes include 3D printing of specialized robot parts, 3D printing of transplanted jaw, 3D printing helping grow new bones with scaffolding, and 3D printing drugs, and newer models for training of engineers, and 3D printing of tactile aids for visually impaired.”

Weapon Identification Using Antemortem Computed Tomography with Virtual 3D and Rapid Prototype Modeling—A Report in a Case of Blunt Force Head Injury, Forensic Sci. Int’l, vol. 222, issues 1–3, Oct. 10, 2012, pp. e29–e32
“A frequent request of a prosecutor referring to forensic autopsy is to determine the mechanism of an injury and to identify the weapons used to cause those injuries. This task could be problematic in many ways, including changes in the primary injury caused by medical intervention and the process of healing. To accomplish this task, the forensic pathologist has to gather all possible information during the post-mortem examination. The more data is collected, the easier it is to obtain an accurate answer to the prosecutor’s question. The authors present a case of head injuries that the victim sustained under unknown circumstances. The patient underwent neurosurgical treatment which resulted in alteration of the bone fracture pattern. The only way to evaluate this injury was to analyze antemortem clinical data, especially CT scans, with virtual 3D reconstruction of the fractured skull. A physical model of a part of the broken skull was created with the use of 3D printing. These advanced techniques, applied for the first time in Poland for forensic purposes, allowed investigators to extract enough data to develop a hypothesis about the mechanism of injury and the weapon most likely used.”


3D Printing: When and Where Does It Make Sense?, NIP & Digital Fabrication Conference, 2013 Int’l Conference on Digital Printing Technologies, pp. 5-8(4)
“Twenty years ago, when Captain Jean-Luc Picard ordered: ‘Tea, Earl Grey, hot’ it emerged in a pot from the Star Trek replicator, a machine which made everything and anything from seemingly nothing. An image was created which is so ingrained in our perception of the possible future that 3D printing is perceived by many to be todays’ equivalent of the replicator. Does it make sense to print everything and anything on a 3D printer? The media and countless amateur videos suggest that the possibilities are boundless, from a cake to a door handle, from designer shoes to a washer and 3D printing will replace traditional assembly line manufacturing in the near future. Traditional manufacturing has its drawbacks, especially mass production, but it can produce high quality for an amazingly low cost. 3D printing, on the other hand, generates items within a few hours which can be customized each time they are made. However, only in a very few cases can the quality of a mass produced item be attained via 3D printing. In this paper, we discuss glass manufacturing in the UK as an example.”

Could 3D Printing Change the World? (Atlantic Council 2011)
“A new technology is emerging that could change the world. 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a revolutionary technology that could profoundly alter the geopolitical, economic, social, demographic, environmental, and security landscape of the international system. AM builds products layer-by-layer—additively—rather than subtracting material from a larger piece of material—that is, “subtractive” manufacturing. This seemingly small distinction—adding rather than subtracting—means everything. This potential revolution in manufacturing may take a decade or more to mature and become ubiquitous, but it could profoundly change our world in the next ten to twenty years.”

Further Investigation into 3D Printing and 3D Scanning at the Dalhousie University Libraries: a Year Long Case Study (2013)
“While libraries become increasing involved in the digitization of their various textual collections, little work has been done digitizing and preserving physical collections containing items such as artwork, textiles, insignias, and other historically significant relics (Lampert & Vaughan, 2009). Advancements in 3D scanning technology have made the digitization of physical objects of this kind much more possible though, and developments in technologies such as 3D printing and 3D holograph projection have opened up an entire new way for libraries to provide this information to patrons across the world (Wachowiak & Karas, 2009). This paper will describe the author’s own process in building and cataloging a collection of 3D models on the DalSpace servers at the Dalhousie University Libraries. This paper will then explore other methods for delivering 3D model content to library patrons, including 3D holograph and WebGL technologies. Following this 3D model repository discussion, this paper will describe how 3D printing technology, implemented as a service at the Dalhousie University Libraries in March of 2012, was used to deliver 3D model content to library patrons; the challenges faced in delivering this service; how this service was used; and finally how successful, overall, this service was.”

Virtopsy: The Virtual Autopsy in Computer Applications for Handling Legal Evidence, Police Investigation and Case Argumentation Law, Governance and Technology Series, vol. 5, 2012, pp. 991-1015

“This chapter provides an overview of the Virtopsy procedure, a computerised approach to autopsy, lessening the need for invasive examination. Invasiveness results in the loss of evidence, and of the structural integrity of organs; it is also offensive to some worldviews. At the Institute of Forensic Medicine of the University of Bern, the Virtopsy project has unfolded during the 2000s, its aim being the application of high tech methods from the fields of measurement engineering, automation and medical imaging to create a complete, minimally invasive, reproducible and objective forensic assessment method. The data generated can be digitally stored or quickly sent to experts without a loss of quality. If new questions arise, the data can be revised even decades after the incident. This chapter describes technical aspects of the Virtopsy procedure, including imaging modalities and techniques (the Virtobot system, photogrammetry and surface scanning, post-mortem computer tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, post-mortem CT angiography, tissue/liquid sampling), then turning to the workflow of Virtopsy, and to a technical discussion of visualisation. Medical image data are for either radiologists and pathologists, or medical laypersons (such as in a courtroom situation). The final part of this chapter discusses Virtopsy in relation to the Swiss justice system.”


3-D Printing Creates Murky Product Liability Issues, Stanford Scholar Says, Stanford News, Dec. 12, 2013
“A Stanford law professor warns that in a world of 3-D printing, people may not be protected under traditional product liability law if they buy a risky home-printed object and get hurt. Rather, they could be left to pursue harder-to-prove negligence lawsuits.”

As Plastic Firearm Ban Passes House, 3D-Printed Guns Fair Game For Now, Forbes, Dec. 3, 2013
“The House voted Tuesday afternoon overwhelmingly in favor of a 10-year extension to the Undetectable Firearms Act, which forbids plastic guns that aren’t spot by a metal detector calibrated to detect 3.7 ounces of steel. But that law, which has existed since 1988, didn’t stop the libertarian group Defense Distributed from legally creating the world’s first 3D-printed gun in May by inserting a block of nonfunctional steel in the gun’s body. And its simple renewal has left the looming question of whether other legal changes, already proposed by several lawmakers, will be introduced specifically to counter 3D-printed weapons.”

In Tomorrow’s Wars, Battles Will Be Fought With a 3-D Printer, Wired, May 17, 2013
“A 3-D printed drone is shot down by insurgents near a far-flung base manned by the U.S. military. Within hours, a small lab dropped onto the base by a helicopter days before churns out a replacement — along with plenty of ammunition and reinforced shelters for the troops. A few miles off a nearby coastline, a naval ship-turned-factory harvests resources from the sea and uses on-board printers to make everything from food to replacement organs.”

Insider’s View of the Myths and Truths of the 3-D Printing ‘Phenomenon’, Wired, May 28, 2013

“From a major VC firm’s recent $30 million investment in the industrial-grade 3-D printing space to the news that Staples will become the first major U.S. retailer to sell consumer-friendly 3-D printers, it’s clear that 3-D printing has reached its inflection point. And perhaps its hype point, too. The technology is decades old, but now there’s an ecosystem in place (which includes my [Carl Bass] own company) that moves it beyond the maker edges to mainstream center. So now more than ever I’m asked for an insider’s view on the hype vs. realities of 3-D printing — and where it’s going.”

Leave Me Your DNA…and I’ll 3D-Print Your Face, Guardian, June 1, 2013
Heather Dewey-Hagborg, a 30-year-old PhD student studying electronic arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has the weird habit of gathering the DNA people leave behind, from cigarette butts and fingernails to used coffee cups and chewing gum. She goes to Genspace (New York City’s Community Biolab) to extract DNA from the detritus she collects and sequence specific genomic regions from her samples. The data are then fed into a computer program, which churns out a facial model of the person who left the hair, fingernail, cigarette or gum behind. Using a 3D printer, she creates life-sized masks – some of which are coming to a gallery wall near you.”

Mobile Labs Build On-the-Spot Combat Solutions, Military.com, Aug. 17, 2012
“The labs cost about $2.8 million each and include state-of-the-art equipment such as a Rapid Prototyping 3D Printer, a machine that can produce plastic parts that may not even exist in the current inventory. There’s also a similar device known as a Computer Numerical Control Machining system for producing parts and components from steel and aluminum.”

Promise, Possibility, Pitfalls? Revolutionary Or Not, 3D Printing Just Might Change How Lawyers Litigate, Law Tech. News, Dec. 1, 2011, at 19
“Printers vary in sophistication and cost, from cutting-edge models around $100,000, to Europe’s HP DesignJet 3D Printer ($17,500), to an open source MakerBot Industries’ 3D-printer kit that you can buy for $1,300. How does it work? Computeraided design software is used to create a virtual model of the object to be printed, say, a judge’s gavel. When you hit “print,” the object is reproduced by stacking up thin sheets of heated plastic or metal (.10 millimeter thick) or via thin layers of metal or plastic dust. Once the object has cooled, you have a hard plastic or metal gavel that you can hold in your hand. The technology is known as “additive manufacturing.” Jeff Lipton, head of Cornell’s Fab@Home 3D Printing, told PCWorld that “multimaterial printing” is like the integrated processor was to personal computing. It has the potential to do all manner of things, but, at the moment, it lacks “the killer app” to go viral. For PCs, some say it was video games; for business, it was spreadsheets. For legal, the killer app for 3D printers may be additive manufactured evidence.”

Real, Demonstrative Evidence From the Digital World, N.Y.L.J., July 26, 2011, at 5
“Law and society are in a transition from digital communicating to teleproducing. And the technologies of the Diamond Age are opening new possibilities for the preservation and presentation of evidence, where the crime scene of tomorrow will be reproduced by the push of a button.”

Smithsonian Turns to 3D to Bring Collection to the World, CNet, Feb. 24, 2012
“A new effort under way at the world’s largest museum and research institution could eventually mean more of its 137 million objects will be publicly available, even if just via 3D digital models.”

State Department Demands Takedown of 3D-Printable Gun Files for Possible Export Control Violations, Forbes, May 9, 2013
“The battle for control of dangerous digital shapes may have just begun. On Thursday, Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson received a letter from the State Department Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance demanding that he take down the online blueprints for the 3D-printable “Liberator” handgun that his group released Monday, along with nine other 3D-printable firearms components hosted on the group’s website Defcad.org. The government says it wants to review the files for compliance with arms export control laws known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. By uploading the weapons files to the Internet and allowing them to be downloaded abroad, the letter implies Wilson’s high-tech gun group may have violated those export controls.”

Using Technology in the Courtroom, Houston Lawyer, Mar./Apr. 2013, at 20
“3D printing is another technology that can be helpful in the presentation of a case. 3D printing is literally a printer that creates 3D scale models that could potentially be used as demonstrative evidence during trial. It is easy to see why this technology is appealing. What is more likely to catch the jury’s intrigue in deliberations in a medical malpractice case — and an interactive model of a damaged heart or a picture from a text book? In a complex construction dispute, a model of a construction site showcasing the site’s defect or a PowerPoint slide of the premises? Prior to the use of 3D printers, 3D demonstratives had to be handcrafted by artisans, were expensive, and took time that many attorneys simply did not have. Today, 3D printing is becoming a quicker, more affordable alternative. Currently, many national and local trial consulting firms offer this service to aid in the presentation of a case.”


1 Indeed, innovative technologies continue to be conscripted to keep pace with the competition for delivering physical objects. See, e.g., Doug Gross, Amazon’s Drone Delivery: How Would It Work?, CNN, Dec. 2, 2013.

2 See Luke Heemsbergen, What Price Our Fascination With Cheaper 3D Printing?, Phys.org, Jan. 20, 2014(discussion of 3D printing’s impact on society, commerce and mass production in the home).

3 See, e.g., Michael Groenendyk, Further Investigation into 3D Printing and 3D Scanning at the Dalhousie University Libraries: a Year Long Case Study (2013). See generally Anna Clark, Who Says Libraries Are Going Extinct?, Pacific Standard, Feb. 6, 2014; New York Public Library Labs (“Based at The New York Public Library’s landmark central branch on 42nd Street, NYPL Labs is an experimental design and technology team working to re-imagine The Library for the Internet age. Labs developers work closely with librarians and curators to create imaginative tools, apps and experiences around library content and services, often engaging the public directly in the work of improving, organizing or remixing library data.”).

4 Conceivably this technology could manufacture everything from works of art and household items to organic matter, like food, or possibly living things—at which point the all-in-one printer will have become a replicator and teleporter. See, e.g., Joseph Flaherty, A Mad Scientist Designing Organs That Could Give You Superpowers, Wired, Sept. 18, 2013. Indeed, 3D printing is developing hand in glove with nanotechnology fabrication that makes these possibilities seem closer to fruition. See, e.g., Wenyong Liu, Application and Performance of 3D Printing in Nanobiomaterials, Journal of Nanomaterials (2013); Yu-Chun Chen et al., Inkjet Printing of Nanodiamond Suspensions in Ethylene Glycol for CVD Growth of Patterned Diamond Structures and Practical Applications, Diamond & Related Materials 18 (2009) 146–150.

5 And not to be overlooked are the milestones of Charles Babbage and later Alan Turing that laid the foundation for the computerization of information and printing. See generally John Markoff, It Started Digital Wheels Turning, N.Y. Times, Nov. 8, 2011, at D1.

6 See, e.g., From the Physical World to 3D in a Snap (Video), CNet, April 25, 2012(“One day, capturing a physical environment and turning it into a 3D image will be as easy as using a point-and-shoot camera. Right now, technology like that can cost north of $100,000, and it’s a challenge for businesses to get access. But Matterport CEO Matt Bell and his team are developing a patent-pending system that is cheap, fast, and consumer friendly.”).

7 See, e.g., Michael Morisy, Eterni.me Founders on Their Digital Afterlife Plans: It’s Not If, But When (Oh, and They Just Met Each Other Sunday), Boston Globe, Jan. 30, 2014(“[T]aking the vast amounts of information people generate throughout their life, and allowing others to make sense of it. In the past, the deceased often left journals and diaries, private personal narratives that provide this kind of connection. Now, however, we generate so much more information, unfiltered GChat, GMail, and Facebook archives are almost too much to make sense of. And so enter the idea of a digitized avatar to help bridge that divide.”).

8 Indeed, the pinnacle of 3D manufactory might be the desktop printer that prints everything–a machine that produces its own ink and paper and even itself. See, e.g., Liquid Metal Printer Lays Electronic Circuits on Paper, Plastic, and Even Cotton, MIT Tech. Rev., Nov. 19, 2013; Paul Marks, Print a Working Paper Computer on an $80 Inkjet, New Scientist, Oct. 2, 2013; Robert L. Mitchell, This 3D Printer Uses Paper as the Ink, ComputerWorld, Jan. 18, 2012. And then the book-on-demand machine might finally be as commonplace as the printer. See Brent Godwin, Books-A-Million Unveils Book Publishing on Demand, Birmingham Bus. J., Nov. 18, 2013.

9 Ken Strutin, Real, Demonstrative Evidence From the Digital World, N.Y.L.J., July 26, 2011, at 5.

10 See Katy Hennig, 3D Printing the Past, U. of S. Fla. News, Oct. 11, 2013(“Utilizing laser-scanning techniques at USF’s Alliance for Integrated Spatial Technologies (AIST), researchers are reconstructing pieces of history that until now, have only been a virtual concept. The laser scanners bring artifacts and monuments to life creating 3D images from the scan data and information.”).

11 This will embrace the evidentiary concepts of authentication and provenance.

12 In some ways, people are more data than human. See, e.g., Debra Cassens Weiss, Woman Sues in Effort to Prove She Is Alive, ABA J. Law News Now, Feb. 11, 2014. See generally Emily Morris, What Is ‘Technology’?, SSRN (2014). And bioprinting, biometrics, fMRI and life logging might become the precursors to a 3D scan of the wiring and processes comprising the living mind. See, e.g., Pallab Ghosh, Scientists Create First 3D Digital Brain, BBC News, June 20, 2013 (“Researchers in the US have recently begun a #24m Human Connectome Project which involves incredibly detailed scans to show the connections between important areas of the brain.”). See generally Ken Strutin, Neurolaw and Criminal Justice, LLRX, Dec. 28, 2008.

13 Depending on its classification, each 3D replicate will have to satisfy foundational requirements as physical evidence, demonstrative evidence or Computer Generated Evidence (CGE). See, e.g., Mendoza v. State, 2011 Tex. App. LEXIS 4378 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi June 9, 2011)(“The State told the trial court that the 3D exhibits were “not a movie” and “not an animation.” Rather, the exhibits were “a to-scale diagram using the Head Zone software called Crime Zone/Crash Zone. It was used to create the diagram that’s already been admitted into evidence, and the actual software needed to project it and to run it is on the computer here.” Id. at 41-42 n.12.).

14 See, e.g., Joseph Bradley et al., Internet of Everything: A $4.6 Trillion Public-Sector Opportunity (Cisco White Paper 2013)(“[T]he Internet of Everything (IoE) — the networked connection of people, process, data, and things . . . .”).

15 This is an unprecedented opportunity to preserve life in a 3D Noah’s Ark, generate a medical history based on personal biologic sampling over a lifetime, or bring the pharmacy and hospital into the home. See, e.g., Ibrahim Tarik Ozbolat and Howard Chen, Manufacturing Living Things, Industrial Engineer, Jan. 2013, at 30; Daniela Hernandez, Craig Venter Imagines a World with Printable Life Forms , Wired, Oct. 16, 2012 (“[Geneticist] Craig Venter imagines a future where you can download software, print a vaccine, inject it, and presto! Contagion averted. “It’s a 3-D printer for DNA, a 3-D printer for life,” Venter said here today at the inaugural Wired Health Conference in New York City.”); Brian Handwerk, King Tut Not Murdered Violently, CT Scans Show, Nat’l Geo., March 8, 2005.

16 See generally Barton Beebe, Intellectual Property and the Sumptuary Code, 123 Harv. L. Rev 809, 835 (2010)(“The metaphor [Diamond Age] imagines an age of human development in which human technology is capable of cheaply replicating any material form through the manipulation of individual atoms and their structural relations, and in which this technology is widely available. The representative achievement of such an age would be humans’ ability cheaply to manufacture diamond in various forms.”) Moreover, 3D rapid prototyping will extend to such innovations as cold welding and “body on a chip.” See, e.g., Joe Miller, ‘Body on a Chip’ Uses 3D Printed Organs to Test Vaccines, BBC News, Sept. 17, 2013.

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